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Folk Songs (author's note)

Folk Songs
for mezzosoprano and seven players (1964; 1973 for mezzosoprano and orchestra)

1. Black is the color... (United States)
2. I wonder as I wander (United States)
3. Loosin yelav (Armenia)
4. Rossignolet du bois (France)
5. A la femminisca (Sicily)
6. La donna ideale (Italy)
7. Ballo (Italy)
8. Motettu de tristura (Sardinia)
9. Malurous qu’o uno fenno (Auvergne)
10. Lo fiolaire (Auvergne)
11. Azerbaijan love song (Azerbaijan)

I have always sensed a profound uneasiness while listening to popular songs performed with piano accompaniment. This is one of the reasons why, in 1964, I wrote Folk Songs - a tribute to the artistry and the vocal intelligence of Cathy Berberian. This work exists in two versions: one for voice and seven players (flute/piccolo, clarinet, two percussions, harp, viola, cello), the other for voice and chamber orchestra (1973).
It is an anthology of eleven folk songs of various origins (United States, Armenia, France, Sicily, Sardinia, etc.), chosen from old records, printed anthologies, or heard sung from folk musicians and friends. I have given the songs a new rhythmic and harmonic interpretation: in a way, I have recomposed them. The instrumental part has an important function: it is meant to underline and comment on the expressive and cultural roots of each song. Such roots signify not only the ethnic origins of the songs but also the history of the authentic uses that have been made of them.
Two of the eleven songs (“La donna ideale” and “Ballo”) are only intentionally popular: I composed them myself in 1947 to anonymous Genoese and Sicilian texts.

Luciano Berio